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Honda's new EV-N concept debuted at the Tokyo Auto Show last week.  (Source: AutoBlog Green)

Honda announced that it may be switching gears and launching EVs of its own. That would leave Toyota as the only automaker without EV plans -- and the only automaker to be focusing chiefly on hydrogen.  (Source: Eco Auto Ninja)
Honda's CEO says a plug-in is a real possibility in the near future

Honda and Toyota bet big on two things -- hybrids in the short term and hydrogen fuel cells in the long term.  For Toyota, the first bet has added up to 2 million units in sales and big profits.  And while Honda, which was the first to release a commercial hybrid in the U.S. initially saw the attempt flop, it now has a new second generation model -- the 2010 Honda Insight.

The latter market, though -- hydrogen vehicles -- remains unproven and expensive.  And with federal funding drying up for hydrogen research and pouring into the electric vehicle industry, Toyota and Honda are placed in a tough position.  What makes it tougher is all the major U.S. automakers have plans to debut electric vehicles by 2012, as does Japanese competitor Nissan.  Even the Germans are looking to get in on the action, with Mercedes and Volvo both sporting electric concepts and cooking up commercial plans.

Now it appears that Honda may become the second to last of the major international automakers to jump on the electric vehicle bandwagon.  Honda debuted a fastidious and tidy little EV at the Tokyo Auto Show a mere week ago.  The vehicle features swappable seat fabrics, a solar roof, and an embedded "communications system".

However, Honda has dropped an even more tantalizing hint that it might be reaching for the plug -- and jumping into the EV market.  CEO Takanobu Ito told Reuters that his company is considering a major policy shift, moving away from hydrogen and instead moving to launch a mass-produced electric vehicle in Europe, Japan, U.S.

Honda admits that the considered switch is largely due to frustrations concerning the hydrogen infrastructure.  It says that stations are being installed too slowly to deploy to even parts of the U.S. in the short term.  And it fears that without EVs it will be unable to meet California's strict emissions regulations.

The news puts Toyota in a precarious position.  While Toyota is the world's largest automaker, and an incredibly successful firm, if Honda switches, it will literally be defying the entire market and calling them on their electric vehicle bet, hoping it fails.  If it doesn't, Toyota will be left on its own trying to deploy hydrogen to Europe, the U.S., and Japan.  And it will be left hoping that EV sales don't showcase the strong growth that some analysts are predicting.

Meanwhile the news is welcome for American automakers.  While a Honda entry would clutter the emerging auto market, it would be acknowledgment that the Big Three made the right call for once.  It would also leave Honda playing catch up to Ford, GM, and Chrysler all of which have spent the last few years crafting electric vehicle designs.  That's a position the U.S. automakers would undoubtedly love to maintain if they can keep it up.

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By superPC on 10/21/2009 9:53:19 AM , Rating: 0
Toyota will be real pissed if someone invented new battery technology that will make short time charging and long range drive possible.

maybe in the future we can have a high output RTG for our car. that way we never need to recharge battery for the rest of that vehicle lifetime. right now we only have 500 watts output RTG - - that makes 100 KW RTG that is needed to run a car still a long way, but imagine how great it will be. drive your car to work and generate electricity for your house while you park it (and no refueling for the rest of its lifetime).

By randomposter on 10/21/2009 10:09:22 AM , Rating: 2
An RTG is a passenger vehicle? Exactly what part of your vehicle's performance having a half-life sounds appealing to you? There are plenty of other technologies that are a whole lot more applicable here.

By randomly on 10/21/2009 1:03:04 PM , Rating: 2
This isn't feasible. To put it mildly.

To generate 100 KW power at the wheels will take about 500 KW of thermal power.
That would require 1 million grams of Pu238, or about 50 times the current world stockpile, which at $300 a gram costs you 300 Million dollars just for the isotopes for 1 car, and which weighs the car down with 2200 lbs of radioactive goodness.

Of course with 500,000 watts of thermal energy pouring out of your car nonstop (since there is no way to turn an RTG off) You can never park it in a garage or the whole thing will just melt, and melt your garage with it. You would need cooling fans and radiators running non-stop. If the fans ever failed even outside the whole thing would melt.

I think what you really wanted was one of these.
Which of course you can't make either.

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